Media watchdog finds 'disturbing' uptick in male, full-frontal nudity: 'Reaching a tipping point'

A child watches television.
A child watches television. | Parents Television Council

A nonpartisan media watchdog group is warning parents about what it describes as a “disturbing” increase in sexualized TV, movie and streaming content aimed at younger audiences, pointing to a popular HBO show as a prime example. 

Research from the Parents Television and Media Council suggests the practice of portraying male genitalia on shows like HBO’s “Euphoria” is on the rise, with content from just the first couple of episodes of the show's new season including fully nude images of more than 30 high-school-aged boys.

The report found “Euphoria” showed an adult male “putting a condom on his erect penis as he prepares to engage in anal sex with a teenager," a high school teenager "offering to perform oral sex on an adult male" and over 80 uses of the "F-word" and other obscenities," according to PTC.

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The group found 21 instances of male nudity in the show’s second season, slightly more than 19 examples of female nudity.

The show “frequently” depicts both teen and adult characters engaged in sex —  including statutory rape — and “normalizes pornography” even as industry reports suggest “Euphoria” is the youngest-skewing drama series on HBO’s digital platform, the watchdog warns. 

In 2019, PTC warned parents that “Euphoria” appears to be “overtly, intentionally, marketing extremely graphic adult content," including sex, violence, profanity and drug use.

PTC President Tim Winter said the show’s creator, Sam Levinson, initially promoted “Euphoria” by saying, “parents are going to be f—ing freaking out.”

“He heralded how many penises he was able to put into one scene. This seemed to be a rite of passage for this guy,” Winter told The Christian Post. “It really seems to be now shock value. Where’s the entertainment integrity? Where’s the storytelling?”

Winter rebuffed the notion that the trend is a response to the #MeToo movement, which highlighted Hollywood’s decades-old reputation for sexual mistreatment of women.

“So why is it that Hollywood believes the remedy to its longstanding grotesque sexualization of women is to escalate its sexualization of men? This would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic," he said. "The rightful remedy for Hollywood’s sexualization of women is to cease its sexualization of women, not to sexualize men — or children — in equal portions."

Even on mainstream platforms like DirecTV, Winter said pornographic pay-per-view movies are increasingly featuring sexually explicit references in movie titles that are viewable by anyone unless the subscriber takes a series of actions to opt-out of such titles being displayed. 

Apologizing in advance, Winter cited a list of multiple adult movie titles featured on DirecTV that explicitly referenced incest.

“These are now titles that when you’re a child flipping through your program guide on DirecTV, these movie titles show up,” he said. “Not only that, but these are movies that are portraying members of the same family engaging in sexual activity."

“We are reaching a tipping point, and it has severe consequences,” said Winter.

While there are several factors involved, Winter said, with so much money being spent amid the various platforms in the so-called “streaming wars,” producers can get more content "green lights" for production than ever before.

That, Winter said, is a recipe for disaster. 

“How do you gain attention, how to rise above the clatter? You do so by being more extravagant, more titillating,” he said. “It’s a race to the bottom but seeming without a bottom.”

Historically, family programming — content that has the potential to reach the broadest audience — has proven to be the most profitable and largely dictated the programming choices offered by distributors. But Winter said that is not the case anymore.

“What publicly traded corporation in America wants to normalize sexual interactions between a child and their father or their mother?" he asked. "This is how a publicly traded corporation in the United States of America invests its financial assets?

“The first step to changing behavior is awareness … I don’t want these titles to be read far and wide, but what’s important is that parents understand and the public understands is this is what’s happening, and we have to force some sort of public accountability on those who …decided that’s the way they want to spend corporate resources to put something like that on the air.”

He cited recent research by Thorn showing children ages 9 to 12 are now increasingly posting nude photos of themselves, with one in five teenage girls and one in 10 teenage boys reporting they had shared nudes — a number Winter says rose exponentially in just over one year.

“We go back to our conversation about the #MeToo movement. Our kids, too,” he added.

PTC launched an online petition for parents and other supporters to demand CEO John Stankey of HBO's parent company AT&T “stop producing and distributing pornographic content involving underage characters.”

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